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Non-profits | April 15, 2024 | By Monika Halsan

Creating an effective non-profit marketing strategy

When you think of marketing, do you visualise corporations holding a megaphone? While one type of marketing, it doesn’t paint a full picture.

Effective marketing takes us through a funnel – from awareness, consideration and conversion, to loyalty; stages essential even for non-profits. It spreads your reach, attracting supporters that help you close in on your goals.

In this article, we’ll explore non-profit marketing strategy best practices that not only inspire action but amplify your voice and mission.

A whiteboard with post-it notes and the title Marketing.

TL;DR

  1. Non-profit marketing helps raise awareness, initiate fundraising, recruit volunteers and promote services and impact.
  2. Your marketing plan should start with SMART goals and consistently be analysed and improved.
  3. A content calendar will help spread out content clearly and straightforwardly.
  4. Build trust through personalised content, authenticity, storytelling, testimonials and engaging your community.

What is non-profit marketing?

Marketing is defined as “promoting and selling products or services” – and for non-profits, that includes identifying and connecting with supporters, promoting the admirable work you’re doing, and making it easy for people to get involved.

Where for-profit marketing is generally about selling, non-profit marketing is also about personalised experiences that let your audience get to know your organisation and its true mission.

Websites, social media and email are a few examples of marketing channels that are effective for non-profits. And while these might sound time-consuming for a firefighting non-profit, the good news is that there are many ways to simplify your efforts, and still yield the results of more traffic, funds and awareness.

What are the main benefits of non-profit marketing?

Marketing comes with a range of benefits – and my non-profit favourites include:

01. Raise awareness

Serving a good cause isn’t enough. You need to be able to draw the attention to the work you’re doing – and marketing helps raise awareness.

With wider reach and higher awareness, you’re spreading your net (and wings), inspiring more like-minded individuals to take action and support you.

Who knows, even if they don’t turn in to donors, you can still inspire engagement. They might help you build a community of people with innovative ideas that can further spread your mission and get you closer to your vision.

02. Initiate fundraising

Follower counts and awareness yield the best results once people support you. There’s no denying that most non-profits are constantly on the lookout for more support, funding and grants.

Luckily, a strong marketing strategy creates opportunities to raise more money. While generally an initial investment, the long-term results of a strong marketing strategy could turn a wide community of supporters into recurring donations and memberships.

Monthly donations

Did you for example know, that “the average monthly online donation is $52 ($624 per year) compared to the average one-time gift of $128.”? It would make sense, then, to try to turn donors into monthly givers!

The bigger your network, the better your chances of raising more money – and you’ll even have the opportunity to communicate any arising needs to said network.

03. Recruit volunteers

If your non-profit ever recruits volunteers, marketing could be a great way to bring in new hands.

Take it even further by openly expressing gratitude to your current volunteers, showing potential candidates that you see them and appreciate the help they give. Besides, sharing the stories of why certain volunteers decided to join your organisation specifically could write impactful stories that become great marketing on their own.

Make it easy to sign up to volunteer, and clearly state what type of help you could need a hand with. Volunteering doesn’t have to just be the “default” tasks you normally ask for help with – it could also be photography, admin work, grant writing, volunteer sign-ups, and so on. Be creative – and share that with your community!

04. Promote services and impact

I speak with many organisations who time and time again are surprised at how many people don’t know the scope of their services, simply not realising the profound impact they have, and who they can help.

When done strategically, your marketing efforts could help promote your different types of initiatives – without confusing or overwhelming your audience with too much information.

Whether your opt for paid or organic (unpaid) reach, you’ll be able to reach a wider network, reaching more people who would benefit from your services.

How to create a non-profit marketing plan

  1. Define your SMART Goals
  2. Do your research
  3. Create your key messages
  4. Analyse performance
  5. Improve and repeat

Your marketing plan won’t necessarily differ all that much from a corporate’s plan. Yet, putting systems in place and strategising your approach will help your team become more proactive rather than reactive, removing some of your adhoc efforts that don’t always meet your expectations.

Let’s look at each step in more detail.

01. Define your SMART Goals

As with most strategies, knowing what success looks like for you is an essential first step. What might be the perfect goal for one organisation, might not be the right for you.

Choose 2-3 main goals to help measure your online efforts, being both realistic and hopeful.

Some examples that use the SMART* structure could be:

  • Higher engagement rate—increase our average engagement rate on all posts from 2% to 3% by October 2024.
  • Increase our online donations—bring in £500 through monthly donations via social media by the end of 2024.
  • Recruit more volunteers—fill our 10 open volunteer slots within 3 months.

*SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound

02. Do your research

You need to understand your audience, their motivators, platforms and general habits. Likewise, you should have a fairly good understanding of what similar organisations are doing – what makes them successful, and what you should avoid.

This research will help you understand what type of messaging and imagery resonates with those you want to reach, as well as making informed decisions when choosing your marketing channels and platforms.

03. Create your key messages and calendar

With your SMART goals and research completed, you can start planning out what your key messaging will look like.

Consider the type of content you’ll be sharing, the frequency and how you’ll distribute content across different platforms.

To begin with (unless you have a dedicated social media team), stick to maximum 2-3 social media channels (1 is fine), an up-to-date website and emails.

Once you know the number of platforms you’ll be sticking with, map out your content in a calendar. Let’s look at a very basic example:

  • Facebook (social media marketing)—3 weekly posts: 1 educational, 1 promotional, 1 personal.
  • Website (content marketing/SEO)—2 monthly blog posts: 1 evergreen, 1 trending topic.
  • Email (Email marketing)—Monthly updates newsletter, CRM efforts to match individual donor journeys.
  • Additional—content to promote your gala event, share insights form annual report/impact statement, shoutout to a CSR effort.

This is as basic as it gets – you want to be clear on what each of those posts are, what day they are going live, and so on.

04. Analyse performance

Just like your SMART goals, what works for one organisation might not be the right approach for you.

When setting up social media calendars, for example, I initially set up only the first month. Once the month is up, we’ll analyse overall performance – including post types, times of posting, visual type, and so on.

With real user data in place, you can make informed decisions on what efforts are worth continuing, and whether some are a waste of your – and your audience’s – time.

05. Improve and repeat

Learn from your first month, and don’t be afraid to make changes. You don’t want to completely change your behaviour as this might confuse or frustrate your audience (don’t start sending out your weekly newsletter daily because you noticed a good open rate, for example).

You’ll likely go through several iterations of your marketing strategy to find the right fit for you and your audience. Be open to that change – but make sure that your efforts are always sustainable. Don’t force yourself to post on 3 social media channels every day if you can’t keep up. It’s better to be consistent.

Non-profit marketing best practices

To be most successful when promoting your non-profit, there are a few practices that generally work well:

  • Personalise your content—we like to feel seen. Segment your message where possible, add people’s first names when communicating with them, and make sure your message fits with where they’re at in your funnel.
  • Be authentic—with AI on the rise, I can’t emphasise enough the importance of showing there are real people in your organisations. Add to that a steady increase in non-profits popping up, authenticity is more important than ever to build lasting connections.
  • Embrace storytelling—non-profits should make stories their best friend. Not only do we connect more emotionally with a good story; we also remember them better. Sharing a strong story can evoke emotions within your audience and inspire them to support you.
  • Share testimonials—what better way to show the impact of your efforts than from those you help, or otherwise have worked with? This is another mean to show authenticity and share stories.
  • Engage your community—provide your audience opportunities to get involved with your content and communications. This is important especially on social media, where you want people to feel like they’re part of a bigger community.

Start your non-profit marketing strategy

I do recommend you make your non-profit marketing strategy your new close friend. Marketing is key to succeeding today, not just for corporates but also for non-profits. When done correctly, you’re equipped with tools to reach new people, inspire them to take action, and build a supportive community that wants you to succeed and do more good.

If all of the steps above feel overwhelming, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. In Win Momentum, we’ll work out your SMART goals together, you’ll be guided through the research, and finally trained to keep your momentum going long-run.

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